Archbishop Hosam Naoum, the Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, has delivered a video message to members of the Church of England’s General Synod, in which he called for everyone to “continue to work towards a peaceful resolution, a ceasefire for humanitarian corridors, and especially for those civilians – the protection of all civilians, especially in Gaza at this time.”
His address was delivered as part of a Presidential Address to the Synod by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who told Synod members about his recent visit to Jerusalem, which he undertook after a massive explosion outside the Anglican-run al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.
“The barbaric slaughter of innocent Israelis by Hamas – the kidnapping of men, women and young children – has traumatised Israelis and Jewish people around the world”, Archbishop Justin said, “that was born in me most strongly in a visit to the Holy Land three weeks ago. The level of trauma was overwhelming.
“It has re-awakened terrible memories, and sown fear for the future. As one father of someone killed said to me: ‘I thought at least this was the one country in the world where we were safe’.
“In Jerusalem recently, I sat with an Israeli Jewish man who told me how members of his family, aged from three to elderly, had all been taken hostage by Hamas. No parent should ever lie awake at night wondering whether their child is still alive, whether they are being fed, whether they will hold them again. I renew my call for the release of all those held captive since 7 October.
“And for the Palestinians of Gaza – who have already suffered for so long under Hamas rule, and Israeli occupation and blockade – life has descended into a living hell from which they can’t escape. For all Palestinians, the conflict has reawakened fears of a second Nakba.
“Israel’s bombardment of Gaza on this unprecedented scale has killed thousands upon thousands of innocent people – including more than 4,000 children. No parent should ever have to write their child’s name on their body, so they can be identified if they do not survive the next missile. No child should ever die with written on their body ‘unknown’.
“The siege has denied people food, water, medical treatment. The current levels of aid entering Gaza are utterly insufficient to meet the needs of more than two million people. Doctors are now having to make the choice between who will be operated on without anaesthetic, and who will receive no treatment at all.
“The suffering of innocent Palestinians cries out as a great wrong. As I have said before: the evils of Hamas cannot be paid by the civilians of Gaza.”
He continued: “when I visited Jerusalem, I joined the remarkable, extraordinary Christian leaders there – united as they never have been literally in their history – in calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. That was over three weeks ago. Thousands more innocent men, women and children in Gaza have been killed since then – while thousands in Israel still mourn those killed on 7 October, and hundreds of families still plead for the release of their loved ones.
“So I repeat that call again today with renewed urgency and even more force. This bloodshed must cease, hostages must be released, and aid must reach those in Gaza in dire need.
“I do not have military or political answers to this crisis. I do not speak from those perspectives. But the call for a ceasefire is a moral cry that we are hearing from people of many faiths and none. Our common humanity must find another way to achieve justice, security and peaceful co-existence for Israelis and Palestinians from now, for the future. In Christ’s name, we cry out from our hearts: ‘No More. The killing must stop.’
“This violence will not secure for the people of the Holy Land, the future they deserve and need. All the people of the Holy Land, Israeli and Palestinian. We join the cries for another way to be found.”
In his message, Archbishop Hosam said: “I would like to thank Archbishop Justin for his presidential address and for his word of peace and reconciliation. That continues to be a light to many places around the world, and we know that, during war and during the time where we pursue peace.
“Language of reconciliation, trying to speak a word that brings people together can be difficult, and it can be controversial. But I believe that here in the Holy Land we need that language of peace and reconciliation more than ever. Especially since 7 October and the eruption of violence and war in and around Gaza. I would like to ask your prayers to continue to hold both Palestinians and Israelis in your prayers, and as we continue to seek peace in the midst of war.”
He continued: “in a time of war, especially here in the Middle East and in The Holy Land, both Palestinians and Israelis are seeking a better future. But this doesn’t mean that violence can be the only way, or even the way in which we strive for peace and reconciliation. The language of guns and the sounds of bullets were never the way forward where people would live together side by side.
“So if we are really concerned about the security for Israelis and the self determination of the Palestinian people for a free and enduring and durable state in the future, we need the efforts of everyone around the world, that we may focus on the day after the war, where peace – a just and lasting one – will be the only way forward for the end of the cycle of violence here in the Holy Land. . .
“So as we continue to strive for peace and as we continue to spread the work of reconciliation, even though it falls on deaf ears at this time of war and violence and suffering, now we need to hold to what we believe in, because that is what God has called us for. And as John has recorded, one of the most beautiful verses that Jesus has spoken to his people in John 10.10: ‘I came that they may have life and have it in abundance.’
“So may the gift of life, light and peace prevail here in the Holy Land here in Jerusalem.”
In addition to the video message from Archbishop Hosam, the Church of England General Synod is being attended by three official guests from the Anglican Communion: the Most Revd Kay Goldsworthy AO, Archbishop of Perth in the Anglican Church of Australia; the Most Revd Albert Chama, Bishop of Lusaka and Archbishop of Central Africa, and Chair of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa; and the Right Revd Anthony Poggo, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.